It’s a scenario that’s been imagined a thousand times over.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
My Reading Room

It’s a scenario that’s been imagined a thousand times over. Frankenstein’s Creature demands obeisance from his creator. Skynet exterminates humanity and sends murderous robots into the past to root out any chance of the resistance being born. Moreau’s human-animal hybrids eventually bring about his demise. 

HBO’s Westworld draws from a rich body of literature, but it offers an incisive and nuanced navigation of the tricky relationship between creators and the created. Based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 film of the same name, Westworld centers around a theme park built in the style of the Old West. 

Androids populate the park, while guests pay exorbitant prices to enter, ostensibly to enact pre-made storylines like the search for buried gold, but really to indulge in violence, savagery, and mind- numbing depravity. The park’s androids look and behave just like humans, but their memories are wiped at the end of each day, leaving them unable to remember the atrocities that were visited upon them, and fresh to suffer new ones the next day. 

But the androids’ consciousness and self- awareness begin to awaken, and as they work themselves up into a presumptive revolution, there’s no question whose side you’re on. Westworld delivers a thought-provoking reversal of an age-old cliché: It is us who are terrorizing the machine, and as the androids become more human, the real human beings become disturbingly less so.

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